No talk of oversight between Trump, Chaffetz


President Trump and House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) on Tuesday talked about repealing the Bears Ears Monument, the Antiquities Act, embassy security and postal reform.

What they didn’t discuss was congressional oversight of the president.

“Before my bum even hit the chair, the president said, ‘No oversight. You can’t talk about anything that has to do with oversight,’ ” Chaffetz told reporters after his 30-minute Oval Office meeting with Trump.

{mosads}It was a strange opening remark given that Trump critics have been hounding the Oversight and Government Reform Committee chief to launch an investigation into the new president’s conflicts of interest.

The rare meeting, also attended by White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, was characterized as more of a meet-and-greet with Trump, who sat behind the Resolute desk.

Chaffetz, who distanced himself from Trump during the campaign, congratulated Trump on his convincing victory in Utah. The two discussed the chairman’s love for photographing wildlife as well as Trump’s son Donald Jr.’s passion for hunting.

The name of Trump’s presidential opponent, Hillary Clinton, never came up during the White House meeting, even though Chaffetz has vowed in recent weeks to continue probing her emails and handling of classified information.

“It was surreal to be there,” Chaffetz said of his first visit to the Oval Office. “He was very calm, very nice, chatty.”

Chaffetz and Priebus got to know each other well while working on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. So last month, after Trump and Chaffetz briefly chatted backstage at the GOP retreat in Philadelphia, Chaffetz suggested to Priebus it would be nice to sit down with the new president.

Chaffetz quickly landed on Trump’s calendar.

It didn’t bother Chaffetz that Trump — from the outset Tuesday — said he didn’t want any mention of oversight. That’s because during their brief encounter in Philly, Trump seemed to encourage Chaffetz’s committee should conduct congressional oversight of the executive branch.

“He was the one who said, ‘Feel free to investigate anything you want. That is your job. That is your role,’” Chaffetz said. “He was not going to put a heavy hand one direction or another. We have a job to do and we’re gonna do it.”

One of Trump’s more publicized potential conflicts of interest involves his new D.C. hotel, which occupies the historic Old Post Office building owned by the federal government. Chaffetz said he recently received a copy of the lease agreement between the Trump Organization and the federal General Services Administration and has questions about the agency’s interpretation of whether Trump can be both landlord and tenant.

But Chaffetz explained that the president is exempt from federal conflict-of-interest laws.

“The Democrats can flail and complain and run around with their heads cut off. The reality is he’s exempt from this,” Chaffetz told reporters in his office. “It would have to rise to a very high level for us to [target Trump].

Chaffetz has said his committee will focus more on the “government reform” side of the equation, but he made clear it would aggressively conduct oversight when it is called for.

“How he administers the government, how those government dollars are spent, of course we’re going to be after that all day long,” the chairman said. “It’s, on the surface, tougher to do oversight when it’s your own party, but you have a job to do, and my job is not to be the president’s cheerleader. …

“There’s always someone doing something stupid somewhere.”

Tags Hillary Clinton Jason Chaffetz

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